Warm winter saviour for farmers
The past 12 months have been among the driest ever in Palmerston North, but most farmers around the city have "sort of forgotten" they are in drought.
A warm winter where rain fell steadily rather than in large dumps has been a godsend for the region, but the total rainfall for the year remains well below normal.
The region is still officially in drought after the driest three-month start to the year in Manawatu's recorded history scorched the region's pastures to gold and dust.
And the dry weather has continued at the end of winter, according to new figures compiled by Palmerston North weather enthusiast Ian Cooper.
Only 688.8 millimetres of rain fell in Palmerston North between September 1, 2012 and September 1, 2013 - the third-lowest recorded rainfall in a 12-month period ever.
Last month was again dry, with the city receiving just 51 per cent of average monthly rainfall.
This is on the back of a dry July where 37.2mm of rain fell - only 42 per cent of what is expected for that time of year.
Just two months in the past 12 - April and December - have received above average rainfall.
A spokesman of Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy confirmed yesterday the drought status over the North Island was still likely to lift on September 30, although this was not set in stone.
A pending drought lift in supposedly dry conditions does not worry Marton dairy farmer Greg Maughan.
Despite the dry, he is thriving.
Mr Maughan said he expected the drought would give him an overall loss for the year, but the warm autumn and winter conditions had kept his grass growing.
"I drove back from Wellington today and there was a lot of bailage being made and it's only the beginning of September.
"For us, we were bailing back at the beginning of August and that's almost unheard of.
"With the way the season has started, it has been amazing."
With a big payout looming from Fonterra, Mr Maughan said now was a good time to be a dairy farmer in Manawatu.
"There's always the risk that if we don't get the rains in October/November we could easily go straight back into a drought, but the reality is the current event is over and we can't be forever looking behind us.
"To be honest, we've sort of forgotten we're in drought."
Federated Farmers Manawatu/Rangitikei president Andrew Hoggard said the warm winter had saved a lot of farmers in Manawatu from a "really nasty situation".
Over the next few months farmers just needed the same consistent patches of rain and they would be fine, Mr Hoggard said.
"There's a risk, when you think about those figures, that we could be back in the same place again this summer.
"But at the moment we are getting moisture every week and with the weather, in the long term everything tends to even out."
The latest climate prediction summary for spring from Niwa forecasts either average or above-average rainfall for Manawatu this spring.
Warm, above-average temperatures are tipped to continue with more northerlies and northwesterlies for the wider district likely.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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